The Netherlands Flute Academy
This summer I was lucky enough to attend the Netherlands Flute Academy (NEFLAC) summer school as a Young International Professional (YIP) in Amsterdam. This summer school is hosted by Emily Beynon, principal flute of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and Principal Chairs Artist, which drew me to apply for this course. I hugely admire Emily’s playing, having been inspired by her Principal Chairs masterclasses, and I was not disappointed by the level of expertise that she offered.
Despite my initial interest having been in Emily’s teaching, the level of tuition offered by the other tutors at the course, Jeroen Bron and Wieke Karsten was equally as inspiring. Their combined efforts meant my flute playing, and understanding of it, developed significantly throughout the week, and also during the following weeks of practice. Having travelled across what felt like the whole of Holland from 6am to arrive at the course on time (a journey that was definitely worth it!),the students performed to each other and the teachers, and from then on it was team effort from Emily, Jeroen and Wieke to help develop the player they saw. Their observations of performance habits and their impact on our playing were an extremely valuable insight. The small group of only twelve YIPers meant that the teachers were able to get to know as all individually, and the diverse mix of international students became good friends. This year the students’ ages ranged from 19 to 32, with the majority studying for or having completed a Masters Degree. The advanced level of the students really helped to raise my expectations of my own playing.
Something that set this summer school apart from the others, for me, was the variety in the timetable. As well as two lessons and masterclasses each with Emily, and technical clinic with Jeroen, we also had fascinating classes in breathing with Jeroen, podium presentation with Roberta Alexander, flute repairs with Cilia van Uffelen, a musician’s physical warm-up and practice technique with Wieke, improvisation with Mark Alban Lotz, musical story-telling with Leo Samama, and Alexander Technique with Maaike Aarts. I particularly enjoyed laughing at ourselves for an hour with Roberta and going into technical detail with Jeroen. These topics allowed the classes to be relevant to everyone rather than just focusing on many individual pieces in master classes. I came home with a notebook of exercises and a mind full of inspiration.
Something should be said about the idyllic surroundings in which the course was set; the setting of a country house surrounded by fields and woodland made the course a peaceful retreat the view from the balconies was very refreshing and the guided tour through the grounds of the house was beautiful. We had our daily physical warmup and yoga lesson outside on the front lawn in the sunshine, as well as lunch on the terrace every day. The course succeeded in being a secluded flute haven.
The YIP course was run along-side the NTK (Neflac talent Klas), for younger Dutch flute students aged 13-18. We had a ‘buddy system’, which teamed us up with a younger student so that we could take notes and support each other at our masterclasses. Hopefully we provided some inspiration to show the NTK’s what they are aiming for in the next few years! Some YIPers coached their buddy’s chamber groups as well. This pedagogical aspect of the course not only supported the NTK’s progress, but also helped the YIPers to develop their own teaching skills and to help consolidate our own understanding of how we do what we do! The whole Neflac team became close friends and I know that I will stay in touch with many of them.
The week concluded with 3 performances with our well-rehearsed flute choir, the final concert being in the spectacular recital hall of the Concertgebouw. We played a variety of pieces on a range of flutes and for me it was a rare opportunity to play alto and bass flutes. The highlight of this concert, though, was definitely playing new pieces by Eric Vloeimans to accompany his impressive solos on jazz trumpet.
I am extremely grateful to Emily, Jeroen, Wieke and all of the other wonderful guest teachers at NEFLAC for a fun and fascinating week, to Suzanne and Tanja the organisers for keeping everything running so smoothly, and to Andrew our accompanist for helping us to perform and laugh too! I hope I will be lucky enough to return to NEFLAC next year and I cannot recommend it highly enough to young flute players. You will not be disappointed!
For more information on the course please visit the Neflac website below:
To take part in the biggest flute orchestra in the Netherlands for the Neflac Anniversary concert please apply here: